It was Jackie DeShannon who first sang, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…” With today being Valentine’s Day, I figured it would be fitting to talk about love (while ensuring that you’ll be humming that tune for the rest of the day.)
The world is as jacked up now as it was when the song was first recorded in 1965. Maybe more so. Love seems like a good solution, a worthy place to start, but what does it look like when we’re talking about the whole world?
I mean, it’s easy to love the people we know and care about, and this time of year, we dwell on the romantic kind of love. Both good, but what kind of love would help the rest of the world? You know, the people we don’t actually know.
Here’s a good place to start: Kindness.
Kindness is the best kind of love we can show to strangers. Especially the nitwits who are on the other end of the political spectrum as you. Or the jerk who posted that careless insult on Facebook. Or the lady who is holding up the line in front of you.
A few months ago, my friend wrote a sweet post about his wife that went viral, getting picked up by many different sites around the Internet, including that of a well-known celebrity. Although the celebrity shared it on Facebook without much fanfare, I spent some time scrolling through the comments. I was shocked by some of the vile, mean, and ignorant statements I encountered on this very innocent, well-intentioned post. Because I had the privilege of knowing the bigger picture about my friend’s life, background, and marriage, I could clearly see how wrong some of the assumptions people were making.
Out of curiosity, I clicked through to the profile of a guy who left a particularly profane comment, wondering what kind of person would write such a thing publicly. I assumed I’d encounter a the real life equivalent of Gollum from Lord of the Rings, a pathetic, friendless individual still living in his mother’s basement. Nope. I found a thirty-something, professional and friendly-looking guy whose timeline featured tons of pictures of him with his toddler son. Obviously, appearances don’t tell the whole story, and it’s clear that this guy has some dark issues he’s dealing with, but it was hard to imagine him approving of his son growing up to post bile like that on the internet.
I was amazed at how many commenters made such rude and judgmental statements about someone they don’t even know. But I see it happening all the time, especially now that election season is underway here in the States. Sometimes I do it myself, if only in my own head.
Kindness is simply the the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. It’s about giving people the benefit of the doubt, trying to see things from their perspective, and remembering that our similarities outnumber our differences.
Kindness is keeping in mind that we are all fighting a hard battle and treating one another accordingly.
Will kindness fix all of our problems? I don’t know. But it’s a pretty simple place to start, and it’s definitely something this world has just too little of.
Love is kind.
Happy Valentine’s Day.